Our journey with IVEP began more than 30 years ago when Joy worked for Oaklawn in Goshen, Ind., and there was an IVEP placement at Oaklawn; a young woman from Brazil. At that time, we knew very little about the program. Later, in 2018, a family from our church hosted an IVEPer from Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos). Joy began working with MCC Great Lakes in April 2019 and learned more about IVEP. This lit a spark in her to possibly be a host at some point.
IVEP was put on hold for a year due to the pandemic, so when it was reinstated, we said “yes” to hosting a young adult. Monica Raharjo was assigned to live with us. Monica was in her hometown of Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia waiting too. She had first applied for IVEP in 2019 when someone in her church told her she should consider it. Her assignment in the U.S. is with Mennonite Women USA doing digital and information technology work. Since most of the Mennonite Women staff works remotely, Monica was able to set up an office space at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary where Randy is employed.
It's been fun having a young adult living with us. Our own children are just a few years older than Monica and they have welcomed her into the family. We’ve enjoyed several weekends away with our extended family and the highlight has been playing card and board games together. Monica is a fantastic player and she catches on quickly. We’ve lost many rounds of Uno, Sushi Go!, or strategy board games to her.
As Monica has been here, it’s been interesting to listen as she notices how our customs or laws compare with Indonesian customs. For example, one of the first differences she talked about was how the American flag is everywhere, even in private yards. In Indonesia, they only fly their flag on their Independence Day. Another everyday thing she noted is how we take for granted is that U.S. drivers follow the rules of the road — like stopping at a stop sign — unlike the drivers in Semarang.
One custom that Monica shared with our family is Chinese New Year. We helped her prepare a wonderful feast for the celebration. A big part of the Chinese New Year celebration is visiting all of your family members; going from house to house and giving them good wishes for the new year, and we were able to "meet" her parents via WhatsApp as they celebrated in Indonesia.
Some firsts for Monica this year have included changing and falling leaves that required raking, snow, wearing a winter coat and boots, U.S. Thanksgiving, tobogganing, a trip to Florida that included Disney World, a weekend in Chicago and millions of Christmas lights on display.
It has been a blessing to us, as hosts, and to Monica, as an IVEPer, to have other IVEPers in our area. This group has grown close as friends and I’m sure they will miss each other when they return to their home countries. We have enjoyed having them in our home a number of times during the past few months. Just the other day, Monica mentioned that when she first arrived, time seemed to move very slowly, but now it’s going really fast. We will miss her when she goes home, and we hope someday we will be able to visit her in Indonesia.